I Can’t Believe I got a Branded Hoodie for my Service Anniversary!

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branded merchandise anniversary program

For years almost every company has been providing Employee Service Award gifts. The variety of what companies do or perceive to be a best practice runs the gamut. In general, branded merchandise in a service anniversary program is not a best practice. Types of Service Award Programs include:

  • Traditional program with limited lifestyle selection and gifts that include a logo, charm, dangle, or engraving. These often include pins or tie tacks
  • Traditional lifestyle program with 40-80 selections
  • “Old School” program with pins that include a jeweling sequence. Some companies utilize actual gold pins and some utilize synthetic pins and stones
  • There is the dreaded no program where leadership says (by their actions), “Our employees are lucky to have a job”
  • New, technology-based lifestyle programs with a significant gift selection that represents needs and wants for ALL employees
  • The “lazy” approach of giving employees gift cards where there are tax implications for the employer AND employee not to mention the breakage

In addition to all of the above, there are still many programs out there where employees get to choose from a limited selection of branded items like a clock, a watch, a hat, a coffee mug, a cooler, or the famous hoody! Don’t get me wrong, the fact that a company is doing something for their employees is positive and for the most part, employees do appreciate it.

The problem with programs that solely utilize branded merchandise is employees feel like the company is getting recognized by promoting their brand. Research shows that when given the choice, employees prefer to NOT have a logo or a branded gift for their Service Milestone. There are also some challenges that come along with programs like this ranging from the financial to the logistical:

  • Because there are clothing items in these programs, the vendor servicing the program will need to hold inventory. In almost all cases, the customer is charged upfront for that inventory
  • Another downside to clothing (the hoodie!) is the need to have multiple sizes for both male and female. This adds to the inventory investment upfront
  • There will be setup fees to imprint, engrave or embroider the logo on each item
  • Often products become discontinued or models change thus the gifts will often change. This in and of itself is not an issue, but there will be another setup fee incurred for the new product
  • The selection is often limited due to inventory requirements and cash outlay
  • Do these gifts actually represent the needs and wants of all employees?

It’s not all negative! Branded merchandise in a service anniversary program or custom branded programs, do have their place in recognition and years of service programs. Some companies have a culture where the vast majority of employees are brand ambassadors and want special and unique swag that easily identifies them as a recipient of a special award. But for most companies, a branded piece would be more appropriate as an excellent addition to a formal program. Employees all have needs and wants so it is important to provide them with a significant choice. Here are some good ways to combine branded merchandise into a best practice program:

  • Drive your corporate brand through presentation pieces. Add a small branded item like a pen, a clock, a key tag or a watch into a presentation piece
  • Add a few branded items (stay away from clothing if you can because of sizes) to the gift selection at each milestone
  • Incorporate “odd” years of service and provide branded items then. For example, perhaps years 6, 7, 8 and 9 would be great years to provide one branded item to employees celebrating those milestones
  • On-boarding is also an excellent time for branded merchandise. A best practice would be to welcome new employees aboard on Day 1, Day 30, 60, or 90. This is early tenure, but extremely important. This is a great opportunity to recognize them with a quality branded item. We also suggest utilizing some form of a survey tool for them

Whatever your current program is, it’s good that you have one in the first place. But keep in mind that an inadequate program can do more harm than good if the value of your gift items does not align with the effort that your staff puts into their daily jobs. At CoreCentive, we do not provide canned service award programs because there is such diversity in our client’s workforce, but instead, we recommend a solution based on what will be a good fit for your company and your staff. See what we can do for you today.